Movie Reviews

Film Review: “Swing Vote”

(Walt Disney Pictures. 1 hour, 40 minutes. Rated PG-13 for language. Directed by Joshua Michael Stern.) Kevin Costner (Bud Johnson), Dennis Hopper (Donald Greenleaf), Kelsey Grammer (President Boone), Nathan Lane (Art Crumb), Stanley Tucci (Martin Fox), George Lopez (John Sweeney), Madeline Carroll (Molly Johnson), Mare Winningham (Larissa Johnson), Paula Patton (Kate Madison), Judge Reinhold (Walter), Nana Visitor (Galena Greenleaf). Music by John Debney.

Here’s a respite from all the summer blockbusters and CGI sequels. It’s too bad Costner only gets around to making a comedy about once a decade. The ’80s had Bull Durham (great), the ’90s brought us Tin Cup (good), and now we’ve got Swing Vote, which is a mixed bag but is saved mostly by Costner’s engaging presence. 12-year-old actress Madeline Carroll is making her film debut playing his daughter. She’s fine but her character is a bit too one-note (most of the time she’s playing the parent and is scolding dad). Incumbent Republican president Grammer (smooth as silk) faces Democratic challenger Hopper (strangely muted). When it comes down to scruffy layabout Costner’s single vote potentially deciding the election, Grammer and Hopper fall over themselves to win him over, and there are some amusing scenes, mostly carried by Costner’s charm. There are a few too many subplots (one with Mare Winningham as Carroll’s addict mother seems out of place amongst all the goodwill), and a few too many cameos (spot the real-life political pundits and reporters such as Chris Matthews, Aaron Brown, Tucker Carlson, James Carville…and Mary Hart!). Costner’s got a Willie Nelson cover band called the Half Nelsons in the movie, played by his real-life band Modern West. Willie himself shows up for a moment but doesn’t sing a song. Kevin does a few numbers, though; he’s not bad. Neither is the movie.